Sunday, February 22, 2015

Other Hunters...Thoughts on Competition

I got an interesting piece of correspondence regarding dealing with competition in the field. Being that I hunt in a relatively crowded section of the state, I see other hunters frequently and have come to a few conclusions.

So in brief-
Just because another person is in the field- doesn't actually mean they're competition. From my experience, about 10% of the folks you see simply don't have a clue what they're doing. If they're your competition...better find a new vocation. Most of them will never venture off the pavement very far and after talking to them, it's really apparent they stand a better chance of killing an animal with the car. I usually try to help these folks to the limits of my ability.

Another 80% are people who are there to "hunt". They typically show up in RVs, have a giant trailer of ATVs, and a giant cooler full of beer. The typical day will be sleep in, big breakfast, a ride in the afternoon on the ATV called "hunting", shooting in the gravel pit, a big dinner, capping the day off with a half rack around the bonfire. You seldom find these folks very far from the road or trail and if they're on foot it's just to pee. I'm all for folks having fun in the outdoors, but I find it hard to consider what they're doing..."competition". I usually find them an annoyance, just more folks clogging the trails and if they take an animal it's dang near an accident.

The remaining 10% though...are killers. The hunting guide and author Tony Russ once subtitled a book, "Why 10% of Hunters Take 90% of Game" and I think he is spot on. That 10% is up early, out late, on foot far from roads and trails, and will be looking to avoid you just as much as you look to avoid them. Competition? I have a hard time looking at them that way, because if you see them in your can bet there's game there and likely enough to go round for all of you.

Pulling Tags...the ADFG Drawing System

Well, the ADFG drawing was held yesterday and a great many people managed to pull the tag of a lifetime. Still yet, many more were bitterly disappointed.

I've received a couple inquiries about how the draw works.

In short- unlike a lot of the West, Alaska's drawing system doesn't accumulate points. Every year, everyone has exactly the same chances of drawing. Some people think that isn't fair...well, maybe. But with few exceptions- every animal available on draw is available over the counter. Maybe not in the areas, or seasons but a sheep hunter can still hunt sheep and a moose hunter can hunt moose.  Bison are too limited to have an OTC tag and muskox are subject to a complicated system of registration and subsistence tags.

But then- how does a guy actually draw some tags? Easy- apply for a lot.

My family has pulled a half dozen draw tags over the years, the latest a very nice "Any Bull" moose tag. We typically put in for anywhere from a dozen to twenty per year. Every year. I did draw a coveted DCUA Sheep tag with very long odds, but I may not ever draw another. I've never drawn a bison tag and may not. But I have drawn a couple of good caribou tags and a couple moose tags. None of those tags had long odds at all.

When I hear people complain of "never drawing a tag" or "the system is rigged"...the facts are they usually put in for very few tags and the ones with the longest odds to boot. If you only apply for DCUA sheep and Bison you can expect a long dang wait to pull one.

How bad are the odds- well the ADFG publishes that in the draw supplement.
Several Bear tags on famed Kodiak Island are nearly 100% draw, sure it will cost a small fortune to get you in there to hunt that tag...but you will draw it.

Almost ALL of the trophy area sheep tags like DCUA and Tok Management are less than 1%. These are simply a hard tag to draw...few permits and a huge number of applicants.

Everything else is in the middle.

So here are some rules of thumb...
1) The easier the tag is to draw....the harder the hunt area will be to get to.

2) The more desirable the species as a trophy (ie. Dall Sheep) is...the harder the tag will be to draw.

3) Bison are the equivalent to winning the "Alaska Meat Lottery".

4) DO YOUR RESEARCH...figuring out how you'll hunt a tag after you draw it, isn't a very good plan.

5) Apply for a lot of tags. My circle of friends pulls some sweet tags every single year. Collectively we apply for (without exaggeration) hundreds of tags so the odds are in our favor.